The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed parts of the government’s updated Net Zero Growth Plan, particularly those that focus on improving the energy efficiency of buildings and reducing the price gap between gas and electricity.
In its ‘Powering up Britain’ document, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero sets out a range of measures aimed at addressing the 20% of total UK emissions that are accounted for by buildings.
It acknowledges that these emissions have risen by 5% since 2019, but that they could fall by between 7% and 17% by 2027 and by up to 61% by 2037. This would depend on the success of new and existing initiatives including a ‘Great British Insulation Scheme’ designed to help the 300,000 worst performing homes become more energy efficient and a plan to phase out new and replacement gas boilers by 2035.
BESA applauded the extension of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to 2028 and a £30 million Heat Pump Investment Accelerator fund to support the industry’s supply chain and help drive heat pump installations towards the target figure of 600,000 a year.
However, the Association said there were still an estimated 15 million homes in need of energy efficiency improvement work, so more support and incentives would be needed, including for those homeowners who could afford to pay towards the cost of their upgrades.
“This still does not amount to the ambitious national retrofit programme for residential and commercial buildings that we and many others have been calling for,” said BESA’s technical director Graeme Fox.
“Government policy is headed in the right direction but needs to be turbo-charged if we are going to get back on track for net zero. It still looks like small steps when giant leaps are needed.”
Chris Skidmore MP, who carried out the review of government net zero policy that led to the new plan, said the UK was missing out on the economic opportunities offered by a national retrofit programme. He estimated it could be worth £56 billion to the economy, could save households £8bn on their fuel bills every year, and create 500,000 skilled jobs in a decade.
However, the announcement that the government plans to rebalance gas and electricity costs was significant, according to Fox, who called for it to be made a policy priority.
“The way the Climate Change Levy currently works runs counter to the government’s own policy of supporting technologies powered by low carbon electricity, including heat pumps,” he said. “Heat pumps could quickly become as cheap to buy and run as fossil fuel boilers if the levy gap between electricity and gas was reduced.
“However, the ability of low carbon technologies to deliver their full potential also depends on having a skilled workforce to design, install, commission and maintain them – so the government plan must be backed up with incentives that will help employers recruit, retain and upskill the thousands of engineers we are going to need.”
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